A peek into the dark side: There’s still work to be done

Chester Toye

Chester Toye

It pains me to say that for many, the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, our nation’s first African-American president, marked the end of racism in the United States.

A nation founded on the backs of slaves that once forced blacks and whites to drink from separate water fountains and denied blacks the right to vote, has come a long way to allow for a black man to become president.

A milestone like Obama’s election is definitely a call for celebration, but it should not be forgotten that there is still much work to be done.

Unfortunately, significant racial milestones such as the abolition of slavery, the institution of a black history month and the election of an African-American president, to name a few, can fool people of all races into thinking we have reached a place of equality and can end the fight for equal rights and representation in our country.

The magnitude of some of these milestones can be so great, and something like the election of Obama can be so shocking and exciting that people can become paralyzed by their emotions. This paralysis can lead to people forgetting about the many other problems that need to be fixed.

These milestones are steps in the right direction, but that’s what they must be seen as, steps — steps on the long road toward equality. Sadly, in many cases these major racial milestones have instilled a feeling of complacency within portions of the population, stunting the progress being made to chip away at some of our nation’s deeply entrenched racial issues. We should allow ourselves to celebrate these milestones for a day but must then wake up the next day, critical and ready to continue fighting to improve our nation.


Attending the opening day of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture had the paralyzing effect mentioned before. Seeing a Smithsonian national museum in Washington, D.C. devoted to the history and culture of my people — a people that have been oppressed for so long in this country — was an indescribable feeling. I was and still am thrilled people now have a free national establishment to learn about the history and culture of African-Americans, but I fear the addition of this museum will give people a false sense of progress, especially during the time of our nation’s first black president.

Let me be clear, the existence of this museum is extremely significant, but it will mean even more when we aren’t constantly reminded of the issues still plaguing our nation today such as the frequent killing of unarmed blacks by law enforcement officials. I am personally struggling with the questions, “What does or should something like the National Museum of African American History and Culture mean to me when it exists within a broken system? Should the museum mean the same thing under a Trump presidency as it did during an Obama presidency?”

Despite some of the major racial milestones, there is still a serious lack of minority representation, specifically African-American representation, in positions of power in the United States. An article in The New York Times in February 2016 titled “The Faces of American Power, Nearly as White as the Oscar Nominees” does a great job of illustrating the racial homogeneity of power in the United States.

Here are a few statistics from the article:

  • 3/102 of the leaders of the largest American companies are African-American.
  • 2/100 of American Senators are African-American.
  • 0/20 of Hollywood executives who decide what movies get made are African-American.
  • 0/20 of the people who decide what music gets produced are African-American.
  • 0/20 of the people who wield the most influence over what books get read are African-American.
  • 1/13 of the people who decide what news gets covered are African-American.
  • 2/29 of the people who decided which television shows Americans see are African-American.

Only 44 of the 503, or 8.7 percent, of the most powerful people in America reviewed in this article were minorities — not African-American, minorities. In a nation that consists of 39 percent minorities and will be majority minorities in a few decades, these statistics show how far behind the representation of minorities in positions of power is in the U.S.

While it is true that president of the United States is an extremely powerful position, it must be understood whites still have a tight grip on the major positions of power and influence in the United States.


Chester Toye, ’19G, is a columnist for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected].

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  1. “can fool people of all races into thinking we have reached a place of equality and can end the fight for equal rights and representation in our country.”

    What rights don’t you have that white people do have?

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